A freeze on business rates for retailers next year is backed by two thirds of MPs, says a poll by the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
Research shows support is equally high among Conservative and Labour MPs with more than a fifth “strongly” agreeing with the move.
Meanwhile, three quarters of those 106 MPs polled said trading costs should be brought under control in order to help stop high streets from declining.
Retail Week and the BRC have been lobbying Government to halt a business rates increase due in April next year through the Fair Rates for Retail campaign, to ease the burden of costs which is stunting growth in the retail sector. Retailers face a £175m bill if business rates increase next year and this is on top of a combined business rates bill of £500m across the past two years.
It is hoped the Chancellor will respond to the campaign when he addresses Parliament on Wednesday with the Autumn Statement.
The findings came as part of the BRC’s research into the current state of the UK’s town centres, which have been struggling since the recession hit four years ago and consumer spend declined. Two thirds of MPs believe high streets in their constituencies have deteriorated noticeably over the last five years.
The research, 21st Century High Streets: What next for Britain’s Town centres?, tracks progress since the BRC’s original rescue plan published in 2009.
It called for:
- Accessibility to high streets through affordable parking and a relaxation of night time delivery rules.
- Safety and security for retailers. Movement has been made here with the appointment of elected police and crime commissioners, although the BRC believes retail crime must be prioritised to protect local jobs.
- Town Teams to manage town centres more like businesses, as set out in the Mary Portas review.
The Government has attempted to help revive town centres after it commissioned self-styled retail guru Mary Portas last year to make recommendations that would breathe life into ailing high streets.
BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “The Government can take credit for a high-profile review of high streets and for planning reforms that encourage investment.
“But continued weak consumer spending and rising business costs mean we’re seeing more and more empty shops. Some town centres are struggling to attract the shopper numbers needed to remain viable.
“A business rates freeze is essential to offer immediate relief, but there is much more still to be done if high streets are to go on providing jobs and services.
“If action isn’t taken the cost of that failure will be borne by communities across the country in the form of more boarded up premises and an acceleration of the downward spiral that’s gripping too many town centres.”
Fair Rates For Retail
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